Diversity Implications from an Occupation Human Resource Forecast for the Year 2000

Article excerpt

April 1994


Diversity (dramatic changes in the mix of workers across race and sex groups) has been forecast for labor markets for the Year 2000. The study entitled Workforce 2000 (Hudson Institute and Department of Labor, 1987) promised that labor markets were going to be dramatically different in the Year 2000 than in the mid-1980s. More low-skilled Hispanic workers, more females in traditional jobs, and shortages of technically skilled black workers were some of the key aspects of this change.

The workforce 2000 predictions did not address what changes would occur to cause the differences in diversity. Both demand and supply movements were possible in the period from the late 1980's to the Year 2000. In preparing the forecast for this paper, we identified five labor market conditions that will affect diversity:

1. Large scale job losses for white male workers;

2. Aggressive pursuit of diversity considerations consistent with affirmative action/equal employment opportunity programs;

3. Strong growth in selected labor market groups such as technicians;

4. Implementation of new technologies to enhance the productivity of lower skilled workers; and

5. Reduction in support for defense-related technologies which reduces scientific and engineering worker demand.

Both demand and supply factors have contributed to the changing forecast for the Year 2000. Events in the early 1990s have altered how organizations viewed work force diversity (Atwater, Nelson and Niehaus, 1991). As organizations restructured, they found that profitability could be increased by replacing some existing workers with lower-skilled and lower-paid workers. An alternative to reductions in force was to pay workers automated annual increases for seniority (McGregor and Tornow, 1990). One strategy used to improve market cost competitiveness was to replace older workers whose skills and contributions were seen as obsolete with younger, less experienced workers. The use of complementary work forces with an emphasis on part-time workers changed the demands for full-time workers in labor markets throughout the United States.

It is easy to forget that forecasted trends, even adjusted for the labor re-structuring realities of the early 1990s, are really composites of more detailed movements. Even during most downsizing (resizing) sequences, some employee groups grow while others are eliminated, and still others remain at near constant levels. As this paper shows, labor market changes have both positive and negative results in occupations for race and sex groups. No single pattern exists for all occupations. Gains by one race sex group come at the expense of other race sex groups.

The 1990 census provides a key data source to quantify the position and movements of labor markets. It is used in this paper for:

* Tabulating race and sex group headcounts across occupations and for specific occupation groups;

* Calculating movements by comparing tabulations with the 1980 census; and

* Forecasting "base" numbers of persons in occupations, and screening those (using job availability criteria) to yield available labor force predictions in the Year 2000.

Important human resource outcomes are associated with these labor market conditions. Using the 1990 census and human resource forecasting techniques, this paper assesses four major drivers and their human resource forecasting outcomes on diversity in the year 2000:

1. Magnitude of white male force reductions: As reductions in white male full time jobs for Management and Blue Collar jobs continue, the growth of complementary work forces and virtual corporation talent will expand.

2. Role of "large job growth" segments like health care on diversity. Growth of health care related jobs is a major contributor to overall diversity movement. With more growth expected for female and minorities in non-engineering technician jobs than any other technician groups in the economy, a downturn could have significant impact on the economy. …